Information in an update sent out by the Hypercube Recovery manager this month reveals that the founder of 263chat, Nigel Mugamu, raised €40,000 from the government of Netherlands and Hivos in 2014.
263chat was started as a Twitter account and hashtag around 2011. Nigel Mugamu used it to engage Zimbabwean citizens online to participate in progressive and national dialogue in Zimbabwe. Eventually the organisation launched a website where it publishes general news.
The hivos website confirms that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Netherlands and Hivos (itself a Dutch organization) indeed provided the grant.
To date, it has not been clear if 263Chat is a commercial venture or a non-profit organization. This may suggest it’s the latter.
From the dates indicated, the money was raised soon after Mugamu had co-founded Hypercube Hub, which was also funded by Hivos. Hypercube eventually closed its doors in 2015 when Hivos pulled out from funding it and apparently put it on a blacklist. This apparently happened after some possible irregularities at the hub were discovered.
It’s not clear if 263chat raised more money since the 2014 money. We contacted Mugamu to get comment on the funding, to check if they raised any more, and to get clarification on whether 263chat is an NGO or a for-profit organisation but he hadn’t responded to our questions when we hit ‘publish’.
Update: Mugamu responded to our questions. Here are his responses:
Is it true that 263chat raised that amount from those funders? – 263Chat was formed in September 2012 as a twitter account. Our work then was purely limited to the online space. As 263Chat grew, we started to attend offline events as a way of generating content and much-needed revenue. We attended many events including the Broadband Forum hosted by TechZim and other partners. We still attend events and provide live updates to this day. Given our online presence in 2014, we applied for funding to host offline events of our own. We hosted a number of free events in 2014 and early 2015 as a result of this funding.
How much more has 263Chat raised since then? – We have not raised any more grant funding of this nature since then. We have instead focused on the sustainability of 263Chat as a business.
Is 263Chat a for profit organisation or a non-profit? – 263Chat is a for profit organisation registered as a private limited business in Zimbabwe. We have recently concluded discussions with a local institutional investor to help grow and drive the business forward.